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Another woman, Jennifer Araoz, has accused the wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein of assaulting her when she was a young teen. Araoz alleged that Epstein raped her after building her trust over the span of a year.
“He was like, 'It's OK. You're fine. You're not doing anything wrong,'" Araoz told NBC’s “Today" show.
Epstein was arrested Saturday on charges of sex trafficking minors and conspiracy, according to an indictment unsealed Monday. He’s accused of running a multi-state sex trafficking ring between 2002 and 2005 and sexually abusing dozens of young girls at his estates in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida. He pleaded not guilty and remains in jail, as he’s being held without bond pending his next hearing.
Araoz isn’t named as a victim in the indictment, and she’s the first woman to come forward and publicly accuse Epstein of assault since a Miami Herald investigative report in November 2018 detailed his alleged sex trafficking ring. She’s also the first woman from New York City, where Epstein allegedly ran half of his predatory operation.
Araoz said she was a baby-faced 14-year-old when an affable brunette woman approached her outside her Manhattan high school in 2001. She said the woman took great interest in the young teen’s life and offered to buy her soda or lunch. The woman even invited Araoz to hang out with a kind, rich man at his ritzy townhouse less than 10 blocks away, according to Araoz.
The townhouse allegedly belonged to Epstein.
Eventually, Araoz complied and followed the brunette woman to the palatial building, which “looked like a museum,” Araoz said. She was given $300 in cash — a big deal since she didn’t have a lot of money back home in Queens — and the brunette woman received a digital camera from Epstein, according to Araoz.
"It was just such a big help, the money," Araoz told NBC. "And I said, 'I'm not really doing anything that wrong.'"
The middle-aged Epstein was kind and talked with Araoz about her father’s death from AIDS, she told NBC News. She said he continued those warm conversations for about a month before he allegedly asked her for a massage. She agreed. He allegedly masturbated during it.
A year later, he raped her, she said.
"I kind of hated myself for it," Araoz, now 32, said. "I was like, 'I'm stupid. I should have known better. I'm a bad kid.'"
Epstein could face as much as 45 years in prison if found guilty of accusations that he lured girls into his home for “massages” that would often turn to molestation, or even rape, according to media and prosecutor interviews with the alleged victims. He’d also pay those same victims to bring him more girls, which widened his alleged ring.
Epstein previously pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida in 2008 on similar accusations. He was able to avoid a lengthy jail sentence through a lenient plea deal with federal prosecutors and served a little more than a year in jail. He spent much of that sentence working in his Palm Beach office or taking walks outside.
Araoz didn’t return after Epstein allegedly raped her, she said. But she didn’t tell anyone about the abuse for several years. She developed intense anxiety and gave up her dreams of being an actress — dreams she said she shared with the brunette woman and Epstein when they were trying to earn her trust.
Cover image: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)